Azure cuts prices up to 17 percent

Microsoft announced price reductions of up to 17 percent on the latest version of the popular Azure D-series virtual machines, Dv2 Virtual Machines. The cuts keep Microsoft’s longstanding commitment to make its prices comparable on commodity services like compute, storage and bandwidth relative to Amazon Web Services, writes Nicole Herskowitz, director of product marketing for Microsoft’s Cloud Platform team.

As part of Microsoft promise to deliver the best customer value on Azure, Microsoft have had a longstanding commitment to make Microsoft prices comparable on commodity services like compute, storage, and bandwidth relative to Amazon Web Services. In keeping to this commitment, Microsoft is announcing price reductions up to 17% on the latest version of the popular Azure D-series virtual machines, Dv2 Virtual Machines. Dv2 Virtual Machines sport 35% faster CPUs than D “v1” virtual machines and are based on the newest generation Intel Xeon (Haswell) processors.

The below table shows the price reductions using Microsoft US East 2 region as an example. The Dv2 price reductions will take effect early February and Microsoft will share full details on this page.

D1-D5 v2 10% 14%
D11-14 v2 13% 17%

It is worthwhile to note that the Azure Dv2 instances – unlike AWS EC2 instances – have load balancing and auto-scaling built-in at no additional charge. This means you get even more value from Azure. In addition to delivering great prices, Microsoft provide further discounting and more flexible purchasing programs to support your journey to the cloud.

  • For customers with Enterprise Agreements, you not only get price reductions like these, but also your price points are even lower – in many cases well below available AWS pricing – re-enforcing Microsoft commitment to be the number one enterprise cloud.
  • Unlike AWS, Azure virtual machine usage is billed on per-minute rate so you only pay for the compute that you use. With AWS you pay for an hour even if you only use a few minutes.
  • For developers, Microsoft provides up to $150 free Azure credits per month along with discounts for Dev/Test workloads through the Microsoft Developer Network program. Any developer will be able to get $25 free Azure credits per month for one year with the Dev Essentials program coming soon.
  • With the Azure Compute Pre-Purchase plan, you can receive up to 63% cost savings when you pre-purchase your virtual machines for one year.
  • If you’re moving a significant number of workloads to the cloud and are looking for great pricing with lots of flexibility, check out the Azure Compute option. With this program, you can run any compute instance in Azure and realize discounts up to 60% in exchange for add-ons to your Windows Server annuity licenses.

Prices aside, customers are using Azure for the value it brings. Customer are using Azure for its hybrid capabilities that enable existing on-premises environments to seamlessly bridge with the public cloud – a reality for the vast majority of organizations.  Azure customers are also using the rich set of services spanning IaaS and PaaS. Today, more than half of Azure IaaS customers are already benefiting by adopting higher level PaaS services – where Azure has always offered the industry leading capabilities. Companies large and small such as Towers Watson, BMW and are taking advantage of these application platform level Azure services to improve their business agility and gain competitive advantage. While Microsoft will continue to offer great low prices, Microsoft is even more proud of offering you a comprehensive cloud platform that helps you innovate faster, no matter where you are in your cloud journey.

Skype Translator Feature Now Available For All Skype For Windows Users

Skype Translator is reaching a milestone moment by completing roll out to all Skype for Windows customers!

This takes Skype one step closer to Microsoft mission of empowering people to do more, even across languages. Microsoft hopes that their customers can achieve their goals through relationships that would have previously been impossible.

Microsoft launched Skype Translator preview just over a year ago in partnership with Microsoft Translator. Skype Translator has come a long way since then and we wanted to share some fun facts to date:

  • French to English is the most popular language pair
  • The number of calls per day has increased 400% since launch
  • The top international Skype Translator calling corridor is Germany to Ghana

Through voice-to-voice translation, all of our Skype for Windows customers can now speak in seven languages: Chinese Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Through text-to-text translation, our customers can now write in over 50 instant message languages.

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With the continued adoption of Skype Translator, Microsoft is working on rolling out new languages and platforms—bringing the translation feature to more Skype apps and implementing an even wider selection of languages. Microsoft is dedicated to continue the growth of this new chapter in communication which has enabled people to connect globally, for free.

To start using Skype Translator today, Skype for Windows customers click on the globe in the upper right hand corner of the app (shown below).

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If your Skype for Windows app does not have a globe, please ensure that your app is update to date by downloading the latest version. After that, you will be all set to wish family and friends around the world a happy new year!

Leading the way in the fight against dangerous email threats

A typical month for the Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online Protection team might be considered a typical for most. In fight against spam and malware, Microsoft process over 200 billion emails each month and block 10 million spam messages every minute. That’s the norm for Microsoft’s malicious threat protection efforts—but Microsoft don’t stop there. As email attackers around the globe are getting smarter and more sophisticated, Microsoft is making big investments in Microsoft Exchange Online Protection and Advanced Threat Protection services to proactively identify and block the most dangerous email threats, with features like:

  • Built-in protection against malicious attack vectors, with spoof and common attachment-type detection.
  • Visible protection to end-users via Safety Tips to prevent users from interacting with detected malicious emails.
  • Rich learning mechanisms for users, such as Phish Reporting and Advanced Threat Protection.

Click Here to watch: Exchange Online Protection updates – Safety, Tips and more

New capabilities of Exchange Online Protection and Advanced Threat Protection

It takes constant vigilance to protect against external threats without disrupting end user productivity. That’s why Microsoft have introduced several new capabilities in Exchange Online Protection and Advanced Threat Protection, which help protect you from unknown external threats while providing admins visibility on targets within their companies and options for mitigating or eliminating attacks.

Dynamic Delivery of Safe Attachments — Last June, Microsoft introduced Advanced Threat Protection Safe Attachments to protect against unknown threats by detecting viruses in email attachments. After going through the standard Office 365 protection process of three anti-virus engines and multiple spam filters, an email with a suspicious attachment enters the Safe Attachment sandbox environment, which has a detonation chamber to analyze the attachment and determine whether or not it’s safe—a process that typically takes 5–7 minutes.

With Dynamic Delivery of Safe Attachments, Microsoft eliminated that delay by sending the body of the email with a placeholder attachment, while the actual suspicious attachment undergoes a Safe Attachment scan. Recipients can read and respond to the message, which includes notification that the original attachment is being analyzed. If the real attachment is cleared, it replaces the placeholder; if not, the admin can filter out the unwanted and potentially malicious attachment. Dynamic Delivery of Safe Attachments is now in private preview for Advanced Threat Protection customers and is scheduled for general availability this quarter.

Zero-hour Auto Purge — In the event of incorrectly categorizing an unread email as spam, malicious or safe, Zero-hour Auto Purge provides the ability to change that verdict. For example, if a message is delivered to your inbox and later found to be spam, Zero-hour Auto Purge moves that message from the inbox to the spam folder; the reverse is true for messages misclassified as spam. Now in preview with approximately 50 customers and available on demand, Zero-hour Auto Purge will be rolled out for all Exchange Online Protection global tenants in the first quarter of 2016. Admins will have total control over using this feature or not since Zero-hour Auto Purge can be disabled in the admin center.

Safety Tips in Outlook on the web — This Exchange Online Protection feature proactively gives user-friendly safety tips that help you decide whether or not to open an email. For example:

  • If an email is from a trusted sender, you are notified that it’s a safe message.
  • If you receive a suspicious or phishing email, the message states that it’s from an untrusted source.

The idea behind Safety Tips in Outlook on the web is to educate users by augmenting written notification of the message status by adding a red bar at the top of suspicious or phishing emails. This added visual cue provides an alert to protect you from a potentially fraudulent request or other suspicious action. Safety Tips in Outlook on the web will be generally available to Exchange Online Protection customers in the first quarter of 2016.

Protection against insider spoofing — Yet another growth area for “spoofers” is what’s called “insider spoofing” or “peer phishing,” when a phisher impersonates high-ranking company executives by spoofing the company’s email domain. The email looks like an internal email, making it hard for existing filters to identify as malicious. Fortunately, by built-in intelligence that leverages big data, strong authentication checks and reputation filters, Exchange Online Protection has strengthened its counterfeit detection by over 500 percent.

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Phish reporting — This new feature enables Outlook on the web users to report phishing to Microsoft by clicking the Junk pull down menu and selecting Phishing. The Report as phishing dialog is displayed and includes a link to learn more about phishing and gives you the option to send a copy of this message to Microsoft to help the research and improvement of email protection technologies by clicking the Report or Don’t report button. Microsoft hope this feature helps you better recognize phishing messages and report any that appear suspicious.

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Microsoft expects to complete deployment of this feature by the end of this quarter. In the meantime, you can report missed phish by sending an email with the phish message as an attachment to Microsoft new address.

Filtering common malicious attachment types — Microsoft heard our feedback and are pleased to provide an easy-to-use feature for Exchange Online Protection admins to filter out unwanted and potentially malicious attachments by their file types within the Malware Policy. This will help consolidate attachment filtering and action for malicious content, rather than addressing these issues through Exchange transport rules and malware filtering policies. Later this quarter, you’ll find the “Common Attachment Types Filter” in the Malware Filter section of the admin center under the Protection tab on the left and the Malware Filter tab on the top. From there, your choice is to edit an existing malware policy or create a new one.

These new Office 365 Exchange Online Protection and Advanced Threat Protection features reflect Microsoft ongoing commitment to provide the most advanced security, reliability and protection of your email as well as user education and a simpler and more efficient experience for admins. Microsoft are advancing the protection Microsoft offer to proactively protect you and your organization from external attacks.

CRM a Dynamic Tool for Sales Growth & Competitive Intelligence

You want to grow your business. You want to identify new markets. You want to exceed goals you didn’t even know you could come close to reaching.

You’ll find no better tool to getting the most from your sales staff, and create the ability to reach new markets and new performance highs than a properly employed customer relationship management – or CRM – software.

Let’s be clear. In some shape or form, every business uses a form of CRM already. Sometimes it’s an excel spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s a bunch of scraps of paper.

When a sales individual realizes they need to take a note about something – even name, address, key point in a discussion – it’s really their acknowledgement that they need some organization to their information management.

Quite frankly, the more organized a sales professional is, the easier the job becomes.

A properly employed CRM system saves a company time and money. It creates a system that puts a sales force directly in contact with prospects, leads and clients on a regular timely basis. It can even open the door to new inbound prospects, opening markets throughout the globe.

It detangles interdepartmental communication. Time and energy is lost when a sales department needs to depend on an accounting, purchasing or marketing department to turn over important information to progress a client’s interest or even close a sale. With a CRM database that integrates important information from multiple departments, there’s quicker access to information and a new understanding of the business on all fronts.

CRM system abilities have grown tremendously in recent years.  A Microsoft dynamics system now offers the ability to quickly research information about any company. Add on products allow for direct marketing via email, social media – or even document completion and development. A CRM system has become a one-stop catalyst of better business development.

Enhanced reporting processes can be built in that reflect the specific interests, benchmarks and trends of your specific business. And, as times change, reports can be updated to reflect new KPIs and other business interests.

The bottom line, is we’re living in a more complicated, more competitive business environment. It demands state-of-the-art attention to detail.

That means business needs to live with a CRM culture. CRM isn’t a one-time adoption, it’s the implementation of a powerful tool, rich in market and customer information that allows a user to reach their personal and business potential.